Testing and exercising business continuity plans

Blog post   •   Mar 19, 2015 09:50 GMT

"When written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity" - John F. Kennedy 危 機

A crisis, if not fatal, represents an opportunity to look at a situation with new eyes and perspective, a chance for improvement and change, lessons to be learned next time. A crisis implies a crucial point which calls for an action, to decide how to react and what to do, to force us to look outside the box and actively seek opportunities. It is better to do this before a crisis.

This is somehow similar with the Cyrille De Lasteyrie’s statement: “Ce que j’aime avec les anglo-saxons c’est qu’ils ne disent pas prendre un risque mais take a chance!” (What I like about Anglo-Saxons is that they do not say take a risk but take a chance!) The essence is to transform the risk to a chance for improvement.

On the other side, there are no assumptions in business continuity. You cannot guess your way out of an emergency. You either know, or you find out.

Disasters happen with little or no advanced warning. When an incident occurs there is no time for guessing or assumptions. We have to know exactly what we have to do.

The testing and exercising of business continuity plans can help you to know what to do, and not have to find out when an incident arises.

Many organizations are not adequately prepared for disasters that could disrupt their business operations. On the other side, manual process can’t keep up with the pace of changes, causing many disaster recovery plans to be out of date. This is why it is so important to test and exercise the business continuity plans:

  • In accordance with an annual testing and exercising programme which facilitates a periodic testing;
  • Whenever an important change occurs in organizational structure or in business operations;
  • When an incident occurs.

Testing and exercising business continuity plans according to a dedicated programme is best practice. Usually an annual testing and exercising programme could support this need in order to see if the business continuity plans serve the purpose for which they were created. This is why these tests should take into account the true conditions of our business.

It is very important that every test and exercise has a chapter for 'lesson learned' in order for continual improvement process. To learn from mistakes or on what went wrong and see what can be better next time should be in the DNA of every organization who seeks to strengthen his organizational resilience.

Ana-Maria Damșa is a Business Continuity Management Specialist at Telekom Romania.